Writing Passionate Requirements

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One of the ten big rules of writing a good MRD is writing passionate requirements. What in the world is a passionate requirement [they were all wondering]? When you believe in the product, are committed to the work, and aren’t bored, you can write passionately. The goal of a requirement is to create sustained understanding. A dry document can create understanding, but an engaging document will sustain it.

The Big Rule of Writing Passionate Requirements

From our previous article, Writing Good Requirements – Big Ten Rules:

Nothing great has been born from complacency, lethargy or mediocrity. When we are defining requirements, we must be passionate about what we’re doing. If we’re just going through the motions, it shows up in the writing. If we aren’t excited about a requirement, the problem is either with us or with the requirement. Either way, it won’t inspire the rest of the team to do something great.

Passion For The Product

When we are excited about our product, and believe in the value for our customers, we will write better. When we know that we are doing work that is worth doing, we approach it with that ‘extra something’.

Commitment to Writing

If we are just going through the motions, creating a document because someone told us that we have to, it will show. We need to appreciate that an MRD is the focal point for an understanding of our customer’s needs. We realize that our engineering team will be using that MRD as the source of their inspiration and actions. When the goal of our writing is to deliver understanding, we write differently than when our goal is to hurry up and move on to the next thing.

Personal Engagement

Few things affect the quality of writing more than boredom with the subject. If we are writing requirements for YACC (Yet another C compiler) and we’ve done it ten times before, we will lose something. Years ago I got some great advice – get out of your comfort zone.

Everyone has a comfort zone, where the work they are doing isn’t challenging. Immediately surrounding that comfort zone is the stretch zone where there is a little fear, growth and challenge. This is where we should operate. We don’t grow by doing the same thing over and over, in the same way. Outside of the stretch zone is the fear zone where we are operating as a fish out of water. If we’re unable to react, learn, cope and succeed, we’ve gone too far into the fear zone.

Complacency comes from boredom, which comes from spending too much time in our comfort zones. And complacency shows in the quality of our writing. We may write accurate, boring, easy to read and easy to forget requirements.

Out of Control

All of the factors above seem to be out of our control. We have employers, they give us assignments. We have to do what we’re told, even if we don’t believe in it. There are three things we can do.

The first is to find a way to believe in the product. Review the financial benefits, think about the improvements it makes for the users. We can find at least an element of what we’re doing that is relevant or significant. And we can focus on that.

The second is to find a way to focus on self-improvement. While we’re performing the job that we’ve decided isn’t worth doing, we can take on the meta-challenge of exploring it as a testbed for discovering better ways to do the job. How can we reduce the level of effort required to do the job well? Can we invent new approaches or master existing ones? We can focus on that.

The third is to think about why we have a job we don’t enjoy, doing work we don’t believe in. If we need the job, then we keep it. If we don’t need this job, we can look for another one that we will believe in. Or we can simply accept that our writing won’t be passionate. But hey, that’s no different than most of the stuff that we read.

Conclusion

Every job is done better when someone is passionate about it – writing requirements is no exception. Find a way to be passionate.

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This article was published on Thursday, June 15th, 2006 at 10:07 pm and is filed under Product Management, Requirements, Software requirements specification, Writing.
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7 Comments

  1. While I totally agree with this attribute of a good requirement I think it is not an attribute of a good requirement :-) it is an attribute of the requirements author. Suggestion for a new way to put it: passion on writing the requirements can be measured in number of justified breaks of rules concerning writing, and in number of suggestions to improve the writing practice rules.

  2. Thanks Rolf for reading and commenting!

    I guess it is a bit of a stretch – the goal is to write passionately, from which the readers will gain a sense of excitement.

    Good point about “breaking the rules” – the best entry-level writing advice I ever got was “follow the rules.” The best advanced writing advice I ever got was “break the rules, appropriately.”

    The crux is in defining “appropriately” – which makes it difficult to encourage.

    Thanks again,

  3. Hello Guys

    I know these question might be very basic but sometimes I really get confused in documenting requirements i.e. making SRS.

    Question 1: Do SRS document both business requirement and software requirement.
    Question 2: Is Software requirement specification and functional requirement specification same thing.
    Question 3: Can we consider desing specification in SRS?
    Question 4: Is documenting requirement for a website application different from other requirement gathering process. I guess if anyone can help me on this very simple example i.e. e.g. registration on a website. How do we document requirements for user registration on website.

    Do we document what fields are used for registration out of which are required and which are not along with what is the required number of the character in the field. do we mention what happens when user sucessfully registered on the site i.e. directed to home page of the site.

    Is there any site where I can see a good written SRS with a sample project.

    Really Need this information which can help me a lot.

  4. Is Business Analyst and System Analyst two different profiles.

    The base of my above questions is as I believe that Business analyst and System analyst are different. If I am write who write the SRS with what contents. If Only Business Analyst write SRS then why system specification are there.

    Hope I will get answers from some experts here

    Thanks

  5. Yogi,

    Welcome to Tyner Blain! I think system analysts are a subset of, or specialized role within the community of, business analysts.

    A systems analyst will often write an SRS. When there is no systems analyst, it can be a BA or a product manager who writes it.

    Hope that helps.

  6. Yogi –

    Here’s an article I wrote a while ago showing the differences between different requirements documents and how to use them together.

    Requirements Document Proliferation

  7. Thanks Scott for your valuable feedback.

2 Trackbacks

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  2. By Fernando Garrido Vaz on November 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Writing Passionate Requirements http://bit.ly/bTbRjh #baot #requirements Congrats @sehlhorst, very inspirational post!

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